One Wonderful Thing About America

I’m down on America a fair amount of the time. But one thing I love about it is that you don’t get things in the news like this item out of Britain, in which the novelist Martin Amis calls the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “undereducated,” saying:

He is undereducated. Which is one way of putting it. His schooling dried up when he was 18, at which point he had two E-grade A-levels to his name; he started a course at North London Polytechnic, true, where he immersed himself in trade union studies but dropped our after a year. And that was that.’

Amis isn’t the only one to criticize Corbyn’s educational background, with the Spectator lamenting the fact that Corbyn’s cabinet has many members from universities other than Oxford and Cambridge:

Under Corbyn, the Labour party — once the clever party — has had a brain transplant. It’s out with the Oxbridge and Harvard graduates with first-class degrees; in with the red-brick university graduates. Or, in Corbyn’s case, a non-graduate. Corbyn got two Es at A-level at Adams’ Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire. He did a year of trade union studies at the North London Polytechnic before dropping out… Let’s not be snobbish. Those universities [Hull, Sussex, etc.] are good. But it isn’t snobbery to point out that they aren’t as good as Oxford or Cambridge — second and fourth respectively in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, published last week. Hull is 401st equal. Jeremy Corbyn’s alma mater, now London Metropolitan University, doesn’t make the 800-strong list… [D]o we want our top politicians to be drawn from the lower ranks of academia? Labour was traditionally the intellectuals’ party. The late Denis Healey got a double first in Greats at Balliol, the brainiacs’ Oxford college. Harold Wilson got an outstanding first in PPE at Jesus College, Oxford, with alphas on every paper. Wilson became a lecturer at New College and a research fellow at University College.

Look at this rubbish! As the late Christopher Hitchens once so graphically put it, I couldn’t eat enough to vomit enough. (Here’s another one from the Telegraph, which posits that Jeremy Corbyn is “too thick” to be Prime Minister and laments that he didn’t go to Oxford like Martin Amis.)

Now, say what you will about America, but this kind of overt class snobbery is just not displayed here. (We can note with amusement that the Spectator insists it is would never be snobbish, by patronizingly acknowledging that non-Oxbridge universities can be “good,” before immediately posing the question of whether politicians should be drawn from the “lower ranks” of academia.)

Of course, in the U.S. it’s no less true that the graduates elite schools dominate the government. But it’s much less acceptable to announce some kind of principle that only the graduates of certain wealthy schools should be allowed into governmental office. In fact, it’s often taken as a point of pride that somebody “dropped out of school at age 9” or whatever, and then worked their way to some position. And people like George Bush are ridiculed for being thumpingly stupid despite having attended elite schools. I think there’s just a certain lack of conflation of “schooling” with “education” here. Many of our most respected intellects (Lincoln, Mark Twain, etc.) were relatively unschooled, and there is simply a much greater respect for autodidacts and the self-made here. As I say, it’s a bit of a lie, since we give lip service to equal opportunity and then simply reward the children of the elite. Nevertheless! At least the value we nominally hold would be sound if we acted upon it.

I really can’t believe that major newspapers in Britain can print this stuff. But then again, Britain is still a monarchy, still a country of bewigged jurists like “Lord Justice Laws.” In many ways, it still hasn’t escaped its feudal past. So there are still plenty of people there who believe failing your exams makes you a fool, instead of just making you someone who hates school because it’s a soul-killing conformity-factory of neverending mindless tedium. Elements of the British public have a hard time understanding this, because Britain itself as a country is, by many measures, a soul-killing comformity factory of neverending mindless tedium. It’s also a place where rank snobbery and class prejudice can be passed off as serious political commentary, and where somehow people who pride themselves on their superior intellects can spectacularly fail to see the shallow irrationality of their own elitist arguments.

I hereby swear not to write anything else about Jeremy Corbyn for a reasonable amount of time.